As I said last week, if we have lived any length of time at all, we know and understand that to be human is to experience more than a few of life’s struggles. One of the struggles I have thought about when looking at the coming Sundays readings is the one of bullying. Have you ever suffered bullying? I remember throughout my childhood there were times when I received a bashing of some sort or other because I was small, came from the poorer area of town (although we were well fed and well cared for) and sometimes because I could use words well for my age.
Often this thumping or abusive situation meant I suffered. I suffered either physically or internally particularly in my self-worth. I am not sure whether those situations, where I had been taken an unfair advantage off, toughened me up or not. However, I did and hopefully still realise and recognise that I was experiencing the effects of the misuse of power – the use of bad power. How do we deal with such misuse of power which is very much a problem within the Church and the Christian faith as it is in the world?
When looking at the reading set from Luke 23 I am struck by the interplay of power going on. Scholars tell us that to die on the cross, for most people, was to die from exposure, dehydration, and suffocation over the course of several days. The Romans, in a macabre definition of the word, perfected death by crucifixion. They used death on the cross as both a reminder to their friends and a warning to their enemies. Death by crucifixion was gory and cruel. This was the use of bad power.
At this place of awful suffering Jesus chose to offer forgiveness and life – good power. All about us daily there are expressions of death and power misuse. Racism that diminishes another’s humanity, indifference that ignores another’s identity, sarcasm that mars another’s self-worth and obscenity that profanes another’s intelligence all conspire to inflict death, all are the misuse of power. We have seen this in action during the recent USA elections. Racism, indifference, sarcasm, and obscenity may not physically end another person’s life, but they kill something precious within that person that was fashioned by the hand of God.
As we celebrate Christ the King this coming week, I invite you to learn again with me that the only power God offers that changes lives and alters history is the power of forgiving love. And we have seen that in action in Kaikoura in Aotearoa (New Zealand) after the recent earthquake. No matter how insensitively another has treated you, or how cruelly you have treated yourself, we are offered and invited to receive grace from the King who gives life in the midst of death and hope in the face of despair. As you journey through life’s difficulties and joys, live with an awareness that no matter what happens to you or others, you can live with hope and in living with hope, live with love in Christ’s kingdom.